Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Three feet passing bill in House Trans Comm tomorrow

The bill to require motorists to allow three feet when passing cyclists will be heard in the Virginia House Transportation Committee tomorrow morning. From the BikeCharlottesville Facebook page:
The House of Delegates Transportation Subcommittee #2 will be reviewing Delegate David Toscano's HB 1683 (3 ft passing) on Wednesday, January 19th beginning at 7am. Approximate duration: 1.5 hours. [The Senate Transportation Committee is also reviewing the identical bill (SB 928). No info yet on when that committee will meet.]

The more cyclists that come to the hearing to stand in support of the bill and, if inclined, offer their testimony, the greater our chances of positively influencing their deliberation. Bring your helmet for strong visual identification. Be mindful, there's no clapping or noise allowed from the audience.
We've heard that several cyclists from around the state are planning to attend the meeting. Here is a list of co-sponsors of HB 1683. Virginia Bicycling Federation put together talking points on the two bills:

This bill is an effort to help educate Motor Vehicle drivers to pass bicyclists with a wider margin of error and thereby reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries to cyclists. Current code says Pass by Two Feet, but it doesn't seem to be enough.

11 cyclists were fatally struck by Motor Vehicles in 2009 in Virginia, most of whom were hit from behind. Several were high profile cases: Daniel Hersh in VA Beach, Kevin Flock in Dinwiddie county, Dr. Joe Miranda from Lynchburg, all of whom were hit from behind. 11 were also fatally struck in 2010, but we do not yet have the details on their accidents.

Drivers involved in such cases often state that the cyclist swerved into them as they were passing the cyclist.

Vehicles pulling boats, horse trailers, and trailers with lawn care equipment tend to have extended mirrors on the passenger side which extend further than the driver realizes.

Neither drivers, cyclists, or law enforcement carry measuring devices to know exactly how closely one vehicle is passing another, but 3 feet seems to be a recognizable educational tool to give the drivers the message to give the cyclists a wider berth.

18 states, plus the District of Columbia, have now adopted 3 feet in their codes:

New Hampshire
New Mexico

and the League of American Bicyclists has adopted this standard as one of the criteria for designating a state or city as “Bicycling Friendly”, which VDOT has unsuccessfully applied for in recent years. Passage of this bill will help the state's application for this designation, which will help attract more cycling tourists, and the City of Virginia Beach has requested that this bill be passed in their 2011 Requested Code of Virginia Changes.

While two feet also leaves little room for error between two motor vehicles, motor vehicle drivers tend to give other motor vehicles a wider berth, particularly at higher speeds, and low speed maneuvering, such as in parking lots, often has vehicles as close as two feet. The driver and passengers in the motor vehicle are protected by the body of the vehicle, so passing by 24 inches seems to work well for motor vehicles.

On the other hand, the bicyclist has no protection, resulting in small miscalculations or errors having catastrophic consequences for the bicyclist. The wind blast from a truck passing a cyclist by two feet at high speed is far more problematic for a cyclist than it would be for a motor vehicle. The catastrophic results of a collision suggests that a greater passing distance be required when a motor vehicle passes a bicyclist.

Commonly Heard Objections to Such a Bill

It's unnecessary. How many cyclists have been killed or injured while being passed by 24"?

None, but 36" sends the message to give the cyclist a wider berth, more elbow room, in case the motorist misjudges, or the cyclist wobbles. A number of cyclists who have been hit while being passed have been hit by the rear view mirror on the passenger side of the vehicle, particularly the extended mirrors often hung on the passenger side of pickup trucks when pulling trailers or boats.

It's unenforceable. How can law enforcement, or the motorist, tell how many inches they are passing the cyclist by?

They can't, but again, 36" sends the message to the driver to give the cyclist a little wider berth when passing them. Most motorists are very good about this, but some persist in cutting it too close.

Many roads are not wide enough for the motorist to pass the cyclist without crossing the double yellow line in order to do so.

I drive on a street every day where motorists cross the double yellow line in order to pass pedestrians walking on the edge of the pavement (there are no shoulders or sidewalks), cyclists, the mail vehicle making deliveries to the mail boxes, and trash trucks picking up trash or recycling---- All if the coast is clear. If some one is approaching, they do not pass, until the coast is clear.

A lot of discussion last year that this is an educational problem, and DMV was asked to see if they could help. We met with DMV, who were very cordial, and we learned that the motorist taking the driver's exam will have one question out of 20 (rarely a 2nd one, since the questions are selected randomly from a pool of about 200 questions) pertaining to bicycles on the road. In addition there is a small mention of bicycles on the road in the Driver's Manual publication. Neither of these make a significant educational impact on the motorist, in my opinion, and the 36" passing law would be another item to drive home the message to give the cyclist a wider berth when passing them so as to pass them safely before pulling in.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Contact FABB via email: info@fabb-bikes.org

Subscribe to the
FABB e-newsletter

Subscribe to posts:
[Atom 1.0] or [RSS 2.0]

  Bike to Work Day 2015 at Wiehle Station

  Transportation choices

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?